Do you need Rental Reimbursement on your auto insurance?

The short and sweet answer is yes but I am not the short and sweet type when it comes to insurance. So let’s dig a little deeper.

Many individuals dont think they need it and many times forgo it to save money. Honestly this coverage is only about $30 to $40 per vehicle annually, if not less. That’s not alot when you consider it’s an annual cost and what it means for you.

Recently I had a client find out the hard way how important Rental Reimbursement is. Another vehicle hit my client’s vehicle while parked and unoccupied. Initially the client attempted to have the claim handled by the responsible party’s  company. However the adjustor was indicating the vehicle was a total loss and that decision made the client uncomfortable. Add on the client had paid extra money for Replacement Cost coverage on the totaled vehicle on their own auto insurance policy. The client attempted to go back to their own insurance for Replacement Cost coverage but it was determined they had no Rental Reimbursement on their own auto policy. The claim process would start over with the client’s own insurance company and leave them out of pocket for another rental vehicle.

In the end the client settled with the responsible party’s insurance company to reduce the amount of stress and move on ultimately.

Had the client opted for Rental Reimbursement when the policy was purchased the client would have had a completely different result.

Yes, you can shave off a few dollars on your auto insurance by not including Rental Reimbursement but it can have a severe impact at the time of a claim.

So purchase Rental Reimbursement for all of your vehicles. I recommend a limit of $40 per day based on the average cost of a small rental vehicle. You can certainly bump it up if you will need more rental vehicle, such as a mini van or SUV.

An independent agent can help you pick the right limit and find a competitive auto insurance policy for you.

Why you should shop your insurance.

Previously I gave reasons why you should not shop your insurance. My goal is not to discourage people from shopping their insurance but to help people be smart about managing their insurance. There below are valid reasons for shopping your account.

  • Major lifestyle changes are a valid reason. Marriage, divorce, a child getting licensed, a child moving out, starting a new business, retirement, etc. Your current insurance company may not have the most competitive pricing once these changes are applied to your account.
  • Purchasing a new home, condo, etc. Selling your home and renting. Again the current insurance company may not be the most competitive based on your new home situation.
  • Change in net-worth or value of your assets. If your net-worth has increased significantly the current insurance company many not be providing you the broad coverage you now need. They may also not be able to provide you the coverage or policy limits your financial advisor, attorney, or accountant are now recommending.
  • Change in the coverages desired. If you now want full glass coverage or GAP coverage or Agreed Value on your vehicle you may need to change insurance company. If you need workers compensation insurance you may need to change insurance companies. If you sit on boards or volunteer your time to associations or committees you may need a different insurance company.
  • Bad claim experience. If you find that your insurance company was uncooperative, lacking in communication, difficult to work with or any other reason and your insurance agent could not help you work through it there is no reason you should torture yourself again in the future.

Ultimately you should not shop your insurance frequently or even every year. You will lose out on valuable coverages, benefits, features, etc. Your program should be reviewed annually but only shopped every 3 to 5 years. If you feel your need your program shopped talk to your insurance agent about why you should or should not shop your insurance program. Your agent will have a good sense what you can do with your current program and if having your program shopped is warranted.

 

Why You Shouldn’t Shop Your Insurance

 

Now that the New Year has begun many individuals and families have resolved to improve their finances. This includes reducing their debt, reducing monthly expenses, saving more money, or saving more for retirement. This plan almost always leads people to shop their insurance policies. I do not encourage this decision 100% of the time. Below are reasons not to shop your policies.

  • Before you shop your policies you should look to save premium on the policy you already have. The insurance company you are with will have a different opinion of you then the company you are looking to switch to. A new company has stricter guidelines for new customers than for existing policyholders. If you have driving history or are a bad pay history you may not qualify for the new company.
  • If you do qualify for the new company you may pay more premium. All reports the insurance company uses will be run for a quote. This includes credit history if your state allows credit history as a rating factor. Also Motor Vehicle Records (MVR) for tickets, citations, violations, and license status. A Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) report will also be run to disclose accidents, driver and vehicles in the household, and claim payments made by prior insurance companies. If your credit history has declined you may not be eligible for the best priced tier. Based on your overall driving history you will be tiered with the new company. Your current insurance company may not have a violation or accident rated due to failing to verify reports or possibly violation/accident forgiveness.
  • You may be receiving a longevity credit with the current insurance which you will not get automatically with a new company. Also if you have little to no tenure with your prior insurance company you may lose out on valuable credits on the new policy.
  • You may lose a violation or accident forgiveness benefit if you switch your insurance company. For some companies you need to be with them 3, 5, or even 6 years to gain this benefit and you may be giving it up if you have a major accident after switching insurance companies.
  • Not all insurance policies are created equal. Each policy and insurance company has a different insurance contract. When you switch insurance companies you may be losing valuable insurance coverage or policy language. Although limits and deductibles may be identical on the policy declaration page it does not mean all the same benefits and features are in the new policy.

If you must shop your policy you should not shop your policy more than every 3 to 5 years. Insurance companies make major changes to their insurance products and pricing in this range. When you do receive a quote make sure you complete a through comparison of your policy against the quote.

Always use an insurance professional for this process. Insurance professionals know the policies they sell better than anyone else. They also will know if the product you are looking to switch to will provide you similar coverage as your current program and the tricks to getting your best price. An insurance professional can also help you review your current policies to save money so as to avoid losing valuable coverages and benefits by shopping your policies.

What is water back-up coverage?

Recently I had a conversation with a client regarding water back-up. They recently purchased home insurance and in reviewing their home policy I noted that they only had $5,000 for water back-up.

The standard home policy does not provide coverage for water back-up. In fact you will see an exclusion for water back-up. Water back-up is considering water that backs up into your home from a drainage system. It could be a sump pump that fails. It could be a toilet that overflows. It could be a shower drain that backflows. It could be a hot water heater that breaks. The easy way to think about it is water back-up is any drainage system to your home that could back-up or overflow.

Water back-up is not flooding. Flooding is water from the outside your home coming in through the foundations, windows, doors, etc.

Why is water back-up so important? It is one of the top causes of homeowner claims across the country. Every homeowner will experience at least one water back-up loss in their lifetime. 

Secondly, the average water back-up claim is $20,000. Think about it… you clean up the free flowing water, you need water mitigation to dry out the floors, the walls, and the room to reduce the chance of mold. You may need to replace the flooring and the walls. And possiby some furnishings. And you may still have mold after all.

In some cases a water back-up loss could mean a total loss of your home. Think of sewage back flowing into your home.

Kind of scary stuff.

So what do I recommend? I recommend full water back-up coverage. This doesn’t mean up to the total value of the stuff in your basement or the basic limit for water back-up. Water back-up should be up to the dwelling, other structures, personal property, and loss of use policy limits.

Yes, water back-up can be expensive but is it more expensive then the cost of the average water back-up loss? Water back-up coverage has gotten more expensive of the years because of the frequency of such claims and the average cost of a claim.

If your insurance company doesn’t provide full water back-up coverage as we insurance professionals call it then find another insurance company. This applies to rental and investment properties.

Have your insurance agent review your policy today to determine if and how much water back-up coverage you have.

Diamonds Are A Girl’s Bestfriend!

It is that time of year where many of my client’s will give or receive a very sparkly gift from Santa.

I can’t deny that I get a little excited when a client calls to provide the specifics on their new diamond encrusted whatever.

That being said, now is also the time to start talking about insurance for those beautiful items.

I recommend everyone have at least some type of jewelry schedule or jewelry insurance. It should be a given when talking about homeowners insurance.

There are two ways to do a jewelry schedule, a blanket or an agreed value. Blanket requires less effort but agreed value will provide more definitive coverage.

If you are unsure which direction you should go you need to look at your jewelry collection.

Go home and pull out all of your jewelry pieces and lay them out on the bed. Decide which is your most inexpensive piece? Which is the most expensive piece? What items do you wear regularly? Do you keep any of the items in a safe? Knowing what you have will help you decide what is more important.

You can even do a combination of blanket and agreed value. The one thing I don’t recommend is no jewelry schedule.

Keep in mind that if you have no jewelry schedule, coverage will be found under your homeowners insurance. The missing item would be subject to the policy deductible. The minimum deductible with most insurance companies is $1,000. Also, you have to account for any limitation in the homeowners policy for lost or misplaced jewelry. The policy may limit coverage to $2,500 or $5,000, less the policy deductible. That can really hurt when your heirloom engagement ring disappears.

Before you go and buy your next piece of jewelry go get some type jewelry insurance in place. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

Pamela

Halloween Safety Tips

Halloween is quickly approaching. Whether you are trick-or-treating or staying home here are some quick safety tips…

Driving Safely:

  • Drive extra slow and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods. Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.
  • Take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians and on curbs.
  • Enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully.
  • Eliminate any distractions inside your car so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.
  • Drive slowly, anticipate heavy pedestrian traffic and turn your headlights on earlier in the day to spot children from greater distances.
  • Popular trick-or-treating hours are 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. so be especially alert for kids during those hours.

Home Safe Home:

  • To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes, and lawn decorations.
  • Parents should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
  • Wet leaves or snow should be swept from sidewalks and steps.
  • Restrain pets so they do no inadvertently jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.

Have a safe and spooky Halloween!

Pamela

Hot Topics In The Insurance Industry

Last week was pretty chaotic for me.

In all of that chaos I attended a town hall forum hosted by Maryland Insurance Administration (MIA).

For anyone not aware, we have a new Maryland Insurance Commissioner, Al Redmer, as of February 2015.

The purpose of the forum was to open a dialogue between the MIA and insurance professionals doing business in Maryland.

There were several topics discussed…

  • When sending special notifications to Maryland policyholders to educate them on insurance, what notices should we include? What does the policyholder need to know? How do we help them make an informed decision when managing their insurance needs?
  • Water back-up and water damage came up. Water back-up is the #1 home insurance claim across the country, and that will not change in the future. Do policyholders know what water back-up is, and what is flood? What kind of coverage are insurance companies providing to policyholders? What needs to change
  • Maryland has experienced a variety of weather events lately; hurricanes, cyclones, tropical storms, etc. Weather events are creating a lot of claims, which in turn causes issues in rating and premium structures. MIA wants to know what insurance professionals feel is reasonable to help curve this cause of loss and create better rating structures in the future.
  • With all of the technology today, Cyber Security is becoming very important for businesses. What are insurance professionals doing to reduce their chance of a data breach? Are policyholders, specifically businesses, purchasing cyber security insurance?

There were many other topics discussed but these are the big topics for the forum and are a serious concern for the insurance industry. Some of these topics are even being discussed at the federal level.

MIA is dedicated to helping Maryland policyholders navigate the insurance market and help them make an informed buying decision.

My policyholders get frustrated every day with insurance related issues; from claims, to billing, to coverages, to premium. I myself get frustrated every day on behalf of my policyholders.

There are individuals out their working hard to provide the appropriate types of insurance and help consumers make sense of insurance. They are also trying to be fair and do what is right for the greater good.

Whenever you have a concern about your insurance you should always reach out to your insurance agent to discuss it.

You can also find more information by visiting MIA at, http://www.mdinsurance.state.md.us.

Insurance is not easy, so ask a professional.

Pamela